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Why Follow Jesus?

Chapter 10: The Risen Jesus!

Jesus was raised from the dead in fulfilment of prophecy, as He had predicted. His followers were astonished. He had raised others from the dead; now He had victoriously defeated death. He appeared to the apostles that first Sunday evening, in an upper room in Jerusalem. For some reason one apostle, Thomas, was not there. When he was told that Jesus had risen, he refused to believe it. He said, "Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe it."[1]

Just one week later when all the apostles, including Thomas, were present, Jesus appeared to them and said, "Peace be with you!" He said to Thomas, "Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe."[2] There was no need for Thomas to check further. He cried out, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus' response was, "Because you have seen Me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."[3]

Jesus had promised His followers that He would be killed, but would then rise again.[4] After the resurrection He reminded them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms."[5]

A few days after Jesus' ascension, Peter boldly testified to a crowd about Jesus, saying, "God raised him from the dead, freeing Him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him."[6]

Attacks

From the New Testament it is very clear that if Christ had not been raised, our faith would be useless. We would all be lost. There would be no hope of salvation [Please read 1Corinthians 15:14 -19]. From the day that Jesus rose until now, opponents have recognised the vital significance of this event and thus have tried to discredit it.

The Sign of Jonah

On one occasion during Jesus' ministry on earth the Pharisees asked Him to give them a miraculous sign to prove Himself. Jesus replied, " ... for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth".[7] Therefore, some argue that since Jonah was alive in the belly of the fish, then Jesus must also have been alive in the tomb.[8] However, the text goes on to say that "one greater than Jonah is here."(v.41) and "one greater than Solomon is here."(v.42) It is easy to see many differences between the two situations:

1. Jonah was an unwilling messenger whereas Jesus had chosen to do His Father's will.

2. Jonah's mission was to non-Jews but Jesus came for all, including the house of Israel.

3. Jonah's fate in the sea was uncertain whereas Jesus was to be executed by the most efficient civil and military power the world had ever known.

4. Jonah preached and both king and people repented, but Jesus' message was not received by the officials persecuting Him.

Jesus was comparing the length of time He was to spend in the tomb with that spent by Jonah in the fish. The similarity between the two events does not extend any further. In addition, Jesus goes on to say that He is much greater than Jonah and, therefore, His resurrection was to be a much greater miracle than Jonah's survival in the fish. If He had simply swooned, there would have been no miracle at all.

The circumstances

Before Jesus was crucified, He was beaten terribly. Many watched Him die, including soldiers who knew death well. One soldier stuck a spear into Jesus' side to make sure He was dead. His body was taken down from the cross and wrapped in grave clothes. The people who did this knew that He was dead and they put the body into a cave that had been carved into the solid rock to make a tomb. An enormous heavy stone was put in front of the tomb. It was sealed by the Roman officials, and a guard of Jewish soldiers was set to watch it.

Why did the people who killed Jesus put a guard outside his tomb? We do not usually send soldiers to guard a dead body! The answer is given in the Bible. Jesus had said that He would be killed and buried, and would come to life once again on the third day. The soldiers were told to guard the tomb because the authorities were afraid that Jesus' disciples would come and steal His body. Read for yourself:

    Matthew 12:38-40; 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:18-19;

    26:32; 27:63; Mark 9:9-10,31; 10:33-34; 14:28,58;

    Luke 9: 22-23; John 2:19-22; 12:32-33; 14:1-16:33

In spite of everything, the tomb was open and empty on the third day. There had been an earthquake. The great stone had been removed, and the soldiers had become unconscious. The grave clothes were there but Jesus' body was not. Neither the Roman nor the Jewish authorities were able to produce the body and prove that Jesus was dead. When the witnesses to the resurrection spoke up, they had no answer to give.

The witness report

Later Jesus was seen alive by many people. Here is the list of people that the Bible gives:-

    Two Marys (Matthew 28:10)

    Simon Peter (Luke 24:34)

    Two unnamed disciples (Luke 24:13-35)

    Mary Magdalene (John 20:10-17)

    Ten apostles (John 20:19-24)

    Ten apostles with Thomas (John 20:26-29 )

    The apostles at the ascension (Acts 1:9-10 )

    Over 500 at one time (I Corinthians 15:6 )

All these people knew Jesus very well and could not have been fooled. Some may ask how we know that these witnesses were not lying? One reason is because their lives were so dramatically changed after Jesus' ascension. The disciples who were so afraid and ran away when Jesus was arrested, suddenly became brave! The Bible tells us how Peter and John and the others faced the very people who had killed Jesus and yet refused to obey them. They preached not only to the crowds, but also to the very same leaders who had plotted to kill Jesus. [9]

A Plea

Dear friend! Yes, we believe that Jesus really was raised from the dead. He himself said, "I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!" [10] Indeed He can save people like you and me from our sins. You and I live in a society in which many people no longer think about their destiny. Let us be aware of the fact that there is life beyond death. It is important to think about that future now. The Bible declares that if we put our trust in Jesus and obey His commands, we will be raised as Jesus was and forever live a joyful new life with God the Almighty, the Loving and Merciful in heaven.


References

  1. John 20:25
  2. John 20:27
  3. John 20:28-29
  4. Mark 9:31
  5. Luke 24:44
  6. Acts 2:24
  7. Matthew 12:39-40
  8. Ahmad Deedat, "What was the sign of Jonah?" (Birmingham: Islamic Propagation, 1985), p.6.
  9. Acts 4:9-12
  10. Revelation 1:18

 

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